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'a homemade life': soup with abandon

(post, Sarah Gilbert)

Molly Wizenberg isn't much for extemporany. (Yes, I made up that word.) She writes in her sweet crafted book of food stories, 'A Homemade Life,' "I find a deep, abiding satisfaction in following instructions."

I, on the other hand, have been known to begin revising a recipe before I've even read the whole list of ingredients. Nay: I have begun revising a recipe based solely on its title. So while Molly and I seem complementary souls (and we're both food writers and bloggers, with somewhat red hair, based in the Pacific Northwest, born in the 1970s, so we're THAT much alike -- oh, and we also both like cream and brussels sprouts --), we approach cooking from entirely opposing modes.

Today, I cooked from Molly's book, and the recipe I made was faithfully followed. For me. Here is my winter's market take on her "Ed Fretwell Soup" (a soup brought from Italy to the U.S. by the Fretwells, and made for Molly's family when her father was dying).

~~soak a cup or two of dry cannellini beans in hot water with a few cloves of garlic for several hours
~~drain beans and put into a pot with a lid, covered with plenty of cold water (she says 10 cups), eight fresh sage leaves and the garlic from the soaking water. cook at a simmer until tender
~~meanwhile, in another pot, heat some oil (I used some leaf lard I had in my fridge, waiting to be rendered, but you could use bacon grease or olive oil or butter). into the oil put a cup or two of chopped yellow onion (I used 2/3 of an enormous one from the farmer's market), some peeled and diced celeriac (about 1/2 cup), and a very large carrot, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced into bite-size pieces. saute over medium heat until onions are tender.
~~dump in a small green cabbage, cored and chopped; a few large handfuls of greens, washed and chopped roughly (mine was broccoli raab); and whatever tomato sauce you have left in the fridge. I had about 1/2 cup left from a pizza sauce. add in about four cups of water or broth (I used water) and a little salt. bring to simmer and cook, covered, for about an hour.
~~add in the beans with their cooking liquid, but without the sage leaves, and a teaspoon or two of sea salt, and cook another 30-60 minutes, until the soup becomes thick and creamy.
~~serve with fancy finishing salt, pepper, a swirl of olive oil, and some fresh minced garlic (if you like to live on the edge)

This soup amazed, and I think my ability to (mostly) follow Molly's instructions on keeping the beans and veggies separate for most of the process was the trick. Oh -- it's funny -- she suggests using Rancho Gordo marrow beans. Serendipity. And extemporany. I like it.